Ex-Bama fan started AU ink habit so fiancé would tie knot
Jul. 29, 2017
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — For some it's just an expression. But some people literally bleed for the orange and blue. Those needles draw blood. It hurts. War "Damn..." Eagle indeed.
While Crimson Tide tattoos seem more prone to go viral, dozens and probably hundreds of Auburn fans have also inked lifetime contracts with their team.
Sure, it's possible to decommit, pretend it's not there, and go play for Alabama or something. But for most people not named Reuben Foster, etching an "AU" into your skin is kind of a rah rah Rubicon, a point (of a needle) of no return, a constant reminder that it's till death do you part for you and your Tigers. And, for Nicky Willis of Skipperville, Ala., her husband.
"Yeah, he is," Nicky replies, laughing, when I ask if Mike is telling the truth about making her get an Auburn tattoo before marrying him in 2012.
Before meeting Mike, Nicky basically considered cheering for Auburn a sin. Mike felt the same about Bama. It kept the courtship spicy.
"She was an Alabama fan, and I kept taking her to Auburn games," says Mike, who works at the Joseph M. Farley Nuclear Generating Station in Columbia, Ala.
"Eventually she was like 'you know you're going to have to take me to Tuscaloosa.'"
Mike never took her to Tuscaloosa.
"I was like, 'there's not really a chance in hell that's going to happen,'" Mike says. "I said 'you're going to be going to Auburn games.'"
Seasons passed. Things heated up. Nicky's Bama shirt stayed on.
"We got to talking about getting married and, halfway joking, I said, 'I can't marry a Bama fan,'" Mike says. "She said, 'well, I guess I have to be an Auburn fan.'"
Of course, talk is cheap. Tattoos aren't.
"I said, 'if we're going to get married, we're going to have to get a tattoo to prove it,'" Mike says.
Nicky says she wasn't immediately crazy about the idea. She was, however, crazy about Mike. They went to the parlor. She walked out with a large Auburn logo on her calf.
"I didn't think she would really do it," Mike says.
She did. And did. And did. And did.
Mike only has one Auburn tattoo, an "AU" on his upper arm. Nicky has four.
"Ever since then (her first tattoo), she's just been maniacal," Mike says. "She's a maniacal Auburn fan like I am."
Maniacal as in two Auburn tattoos in less than a month. And if you guessed that month was December 2013, you'd be right.
Nicky celebrated the Kick Six with a tiger paw tattoo on her chest. Three weeks later she realized she could have done better. She went back and came out with words "All It Takes Is One Second" a few inches above it (which has to be one of the few tattoos in the world to reference not just a specific team, but a specific game).
There's also a "War Eagle" on her calf.
"Now I have to try to keep her from getting any more of them," Mike says.
"I created an Auburn monster."
The Willis' aren't the only married couple to both sport Auburn tattoos.
Meet the man who asked his Bama fan fiancé to prove her love with an Auburn tattoo.
Former Bama fan with Kick Six tattoo started Auburn ink habit as gesture of love for her husband
Elizabeth Kelley of Auburn didn't get one because of husband. She got it, at least in part, because of her grandfather Jeff Beard, Auburn's Athletics Director from 1951 to 1972.
"My roots are deep," she says. "And I'd always wanted an 'AU' tattoo."
In 2010, she finally went for it. She just had a feeling.
"I was like, 'this is the year, I feel like we're going to win the national championship," she says. "Even if we didn't, it didn't matter."
Despite her family's AU roots, Elizabeth bucked tradition and attended the University of North Alabama. Her husband Chadd, a pilot for Auburn University, is an Indiana State grad.
Elizabeth claims she "brainwashed (Chadd) into being an Auburn fan."
Like Mike Willis with his better half, she did a good job.
Chadd has two Auburn tattoos, both on his ankles. Elizabeth still just has the one.
"I got it on my foot," she says of her Auburn logo. "Getting it there hurts really bad."